How to develop assertiveness as a leader?

How To Develop Assertiveness As A Leader?

Do you ever feel as though you fail to get your opinions heard, or people readily dismiss your views? Maybe you have a habit of handling situations aggressively, or lack the confidence to speak up. If so this ‘know it’ will help you develop your assertiveness skills in order to further both your confidence and influencing skills.

What is assertiveness?

Assertiveness is a key skill that can help you to better manage yourself, people and situations. It can help you to influence others in order to gain acceptance, agreement or behaviour change.

Assertiveness is not about aggression – dominating or dismissing others in order to get what you want. Nor is it passive – failing to express yourself adequately, being self-doubting or timid. It is the ability to express your opinions positively and with confidence. Assertive people are in total control of themselves and others.

A word of caution

Remember not to go too far. If you become too assertive, you may begin to stop listening to others despite them having good ideas. This will only act to alienate your colleagues and damage relationships. A little assertion at the right time can be a highly effective way of developing your profile and self-esteem.

Assertiveness can be applied to any situation where communication is key, for example:

  • Meetings
  • Presentations
  • Dealing with customers
  • Running projects
  • Working with colleagues

“ Assertiveness is not what you do, it’s who you are!”

Shakti Gawain

Becoming more assertive

There are a number of techniques that can help you to develop your assertiveness:

Decide to change

In most cases, just taking the decision to change your behaviour is a strong stimulator of change in itself.

Develop your confidence

Positive thinking is a key tool in assertiveness. Work on changing those negative thoughts you have about yourself to positive self-statements. For example, instead of thinking “I’m no good at presentations”, tell yourself “I can do this” can have a surprising impact on your confidence.

Own your own feelings

Assertiveness is about controlling your emotions and expressing them appropriately. Understanding your feelings and how they impact on your behaviour can give you more control over them. For example, if you quickly rise to the bait in confrontational situations, knowing that you do this can help you develop strategies to cope.

Communicate assertively

Be clear, direct and accurate. Avoid preambles such as “I know you’re busy, but…” and don’t give excessive explanations. Use plain English. Don’t use overly complicated words or acronyms that the other person may not understand. The point is to get your message across effectively, not to look clever. Use assertive statements such as “In my opinion….”, “I think…”, and “I feel…”. Think about what you are going to say before you say it and how you can say it to best effect.

Practice communication

Think of a situation in which you didn’t put your message across in an effective manner. Construct the argument that you would like to have made, paying close attention to the words and phrases you would like to have used. Make a video recording of you speaking your argument out loud.

Practice speaking out loud

Try this a few times to improve any points you have picked up on.

Be aware of others

Assertiveness involves letting others express their needs, wants and opinions. You are only being assertive if you stand up for your own rights in a way that does not violate the rights of others. Equal communication, negotiation and compromise are fundamental to assertiveness.

Start small

Your behaviour won’t change overnight. As a starting point, focus on one behaviour characteristic you want to change and practise it in a safe environment. For example, if you decided you wanted to be more open about your views during discussions, you could start with a topic that you know well and initiate a discussion about it.

Prepare for situations where you want to be assertive

Consider: your objectives or desired outcomes; your opinions; the issues likely to arise and how you are going to handle these; the dialogue/assertive statements you could use. Practise what you are going to say and how you are going to say it.

Review your progress

Every time you try it out, spend a couple of minutes afterwards asking yourself: “how did I handle that?”, “what did I do well?” and “what might I do differently next time?” This will keep you on track and focussed on your development.

Understand that setbacks are inevitable

Don’t let them get you down, but learn from them. It is important to recognise your successes and keep your failures in perspective.

Was your voice loud and clear?

Did you speak at a suitable pace? Was your voice monotone or have appropriate inflection? Did your body language portray confidence?

Like a majority of skills in leadership, assertiveness can be adapted and developed. If you have a plan, focus and deliver then anything is possible.

For some more information on the subject have a read of this Forbes post.

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Hi! I`m Chris Webb, I live in the South East and started Leaders Retail Consultancy in 2019. Before freelancing, I was a senior retail leader for a number of the UK’s top retailers gaining experience over 23 glorious years. When I am not coaching I enjoy spending time with the family or in the gym. Click here for more information about Leaders Retail Consultancy


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